In our recent webinar with renowned brand guru and author Bruce Philp, we explored the motivations that create winning brands. (If you missed the webinar, you can access an on-demand recording and a quick recap here.)
We received some excellent questions during and after the webinar. Since we didn’t get to all of them, Bruce and I compiled answers below.
>> Listen to a recording of our webinar with Bruce Philp.
Q: How do marketers get ahead and make their brands relevant to the majority before the competition?
A: By listening. Whether we like it or not, marketers are almost always following culture rather than leading it. To beat the competition to the mass market, you need to be the first to notice the signs that your category is ’tipping’, to use Malcolm Gladwell’s word. I know of no other way to do that than to be the best at market intelligence and cultural surveillance. In a perfect world – to me, anyway – marketers invest heavily in those things, and develop themselves and their teams to not just use the tools, but to be full time ethnographers.
I once asked Dan Wieden of [iconic ad agency] Wieden + Kennedy if it was the job of W+K’s strategic planners to be the company’s antennae. He replied, ”I expect everybody in this goddam place to be an antenna.Û He was right. And it’s a good policy for any company.
Q: How do these four motivations apply to smaller brands?
A: Generally speaking, the smaller the brand, the more acute the need to manage these four aspects of the brand experience. The reason is pretty simple: consumers are trying to discern a pattern in what they can observe about you. The fewer data points they have to work with, the less misdirection you can afford. Your narrative has to be simpler and more authentic. Your values have to be more passionately expressed and shared. You have to work hard to earn trust, because you can’t fall back on scale and fame as proof that you deliver on your promises.
The only one of the four that can be more complicated for smaller brands is ’majority rules’ – the idea that social consensus is necessary for a brand to prosper. If you’re a small brand, it’s very likely that you either have a more focused value proposition or a more tightly defined target. In the latter case, it’s the majority of that particular group you need on side, not a majority of consumers in general.
The good news there is that tightly defined targets generally have more in common, and are more likely to think the same way; the bad news is that they are often more involved in the category and thus harder to win over.
In the end, though, the imperatives are the same whether you’re running Coca Cola, trying to manage your personal brand, or anything in between.
Q: If the early adopters are motivated by status, the early mass are motivated by benefit, and the laggards are motivated by necessity, what are the innovators and late mass people motivated by?
– Nick Stein (@stein_nick) September 3, 2014
A: Innovators are motivated by novelty, Early Adopters by social status, Early Mass by utility, Late Mass by value, and the Laggards by necessity.
The Innovators’ motivation is important to us because it makes them unreliable as predictors of mass-market behavior. They’re wrong a lot, and are easily bored. The Early Adopters are the ones to watch, because whatever produces social capital eventually can produce profit.
As for the Late Mass folks, I find this distinction a bit fine myself, so you’re not alone. What distinguishes them from the Early Mass adopters is skepticism and price sensitivity. They’ll wait until something has proven itself and the price has settled down before they enter a category, whereas their Early Mass neighbors still want to buy some reflected social status even though they aren’t themselves opinion leaders. In a lot of categories, these consumers are where you harvest your investment in innovation, because there are a lot of them and they’re willing to pay a fair price to play. As you start to get reluctance in a consumer, margin pressure follows as sure as night follows day.
Q: Isn’t getting feedback from our social channels enough to get a good sense of what our customers want?
A: Social media data is a great starting point to understand what people are saying about your brand and what they need. But social listening alone can’t give you complete customer understanding. Many social media users are ”lurkersÛ; these people use social media but they rarely post, like or comment. So if you’re listening to the social media chatter, you’re hearing only from the loudest voices online. Can you really afford to make million-dollar decisions by listening only to a small fraction of your customers?
– Tyler Douglas (@tylerdouglas) September 3, 2014
What we’re advocating for is a 360-degree understanding of your customers – an understanding of not just what they’re saying, but also of what they think and feel. The only way to do is by engaging the right customers at the right time in a community setting.
Q: Will we be able to get a recording of the webinar? How about a copy of the presentation?